Friday, January 30, 2009
Regardless of anyone's political views, we are lucky to have someone in the White House that understands how powerful these forms of communication can be, and it will be interesting to see how he will use these different mediums to reach out in the future.
According to an article on ecommerce-guide.com, online retailer ThinkGeek was able to use YouTube last year to reap record-breaking sales around the holiday.
After posting a quirky video as a part of a promotion for one of its Valentine’s Day items, (an 8-Bit Dynamic Life Shirt), the clip was watched nearly 250,000 times and sales ultimately climbed. ThinkGeek plans to reach out to more social-media sites in the days leading up to Feb. 14. Here’s why:
"Social-media techniques provide online retailers new, effective avenues for promoting their products," Caroline Offutt, VP and general manager of ThinkGeek, told ecommerce-guide.com. "And this year, we've grown our blog and Twitter feed significantly, giving us new ways to promote our Valentine's Day products in a fun, geeky sort of way."
Check out how more retailers plan to market Valentine’s Day thanks to Web 2.0 technology here.
Whether it's a postcard from where the company's headquarters are located, free shoe polish to go along with a footwear purchase or even a branded pen, consumers love freebies and it's a sure way to lock in loyal customers and entice new ones. Click here.
But when a friend recently told me she read the entire “Great Gatsby” on her iPhone for free via an application called “Stanza,” the Kindle allure started to fade. “Stanza” carries thousands of books and periodicals that can be downloaded on demand from the Internet on your computer. Book choices range from classic to contemporary works. Some are free, whereas others require a charge (The teen cult series, “Twilight,” goes for $10.99). But once a book is downloaded to an iPhone or iTouch, it can be read anywhere, regardless of Internet connectivity – airplanes and subways included.
The app also allows you to use virtual bookmarks to reserve your place (or you can skip around to different chapters) and even overrides the background color, font size and text color to fit your preferences.
Analysts debated how e-book readers such as the Kindle would effect book retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Borders moving forward, but I think cash-strapped consumers (especially now) might bypass the pricy gadget all together and wait until their phones can handle sophisticated e-book applications such as Stanza.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if retailers felt compelled to get in on the action by offering exclusive downloads for purchase on these e-book apps in the near future.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
But why throw away a sophisticated e-commerce set up that could help get rid of inventory? Has the chain underestimated the power of the Web? This news makes no sense to me.
Judging by the long lines in various Subway locations during lunchtime in the Midtown area, I’m sure consumers will take advantage of the pilot so they can quickly grab lunch and get back to work. Although the program just launched a few weeks ago, mediabistro.com blog MobileMarketingToday said participating Subway stores have seen a "major increase in customer visit frequency" and "larger average order sizes.”
Subway also trialed a mobile coupon program through a single franchise location in Illinois, according to MobileMarketingToday. Subway said that the mobile coupon promotion specifically resonated with high school students, and as result, reported an increase in sales for the location. Read the blog entry here.
Consumers are already embracing these new mobile initiatives from fast food chains, but retailers are still struggling to reach shoppers with texting programs. Some companies have experienced with text-marketing campaigns in the past, but many companies are finding that shoppers don’t want to be bothered with ads on their phones.
Retailers need to give consumers a reason to use texts (or mobile in general) to interact with them. If consumers already feel comfortable cashing in coupons and ordering take-out on a handheld mobile device, there’s certainly room for retailers to get in on the action -- they just have to strategize out how.
Friday, January 23, 2009
I usually don’t write about brand products, but Dentyne has a thing or two to teach retailers about how to speak (and get through) to Generation Y.
The new ads from chewing gum company Denytne first caught my attention while I was riding the subway in New York City several moths ago. Its “Make Face Time” campaign aims to speak the language of Gen Y (and it does so very successfully). The ads urge consumers to unplug, power-off and step away from the keyboard. Some tag lines include: “Have mercy on your thumbs;” “Undo. Hit cancel. Be together;” and “Friend Request Accepted [a hug].” The commercial also hits home (you may recognize it).
I recently realized, however, that the company takes this concept a step further online, as well. Its site, Dentyne.com, features a clock in the corner of the page that gives consumers only three-minutes to browse the site before it closes. The homepage says:
We’ve got nothing against the Internet, but when people are surfing the Web, they’re missing the best part of life -- being together. That’s why we created the first website devoted to helping people spend less time online and more time with each other. We've allocated just enough time to browse every link, but not a second more. So enjoy your three minutes, then get out there and make face time. Chop Chop. Time starts now.
However, some pages pause the clock, including product description pages that allow consumers to learn about Dentyne items without a time limitation.
Overall, the entire idea is genius: It blatantly tells me to log off, but I’m further entranced by what’s on the site. Smart marketing indeed.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So far, Fresh & Easy is off to a good start. According to a report in London's Telegraph, "the Fresh & Easy Twitter feed has 915 followers — a fair number given that a chain the size of Starbucks only has 30,591 followers."
Read how Tesco is getting in on the conversation here.
Although various retailers have been providing this service for several years, many consumers are only starting to take advantage now, especially to avoid long lines and shipping costs. To extend this idea further and help bridge the gap between bricks-and-mortar locations and the e-commerce space, some retailers such as Sears are pulling out the stops.
Sears Holdings recently announced that it plans to open a warehouse-style concept store this summer in Joliet, Ill. called MyGofer. The concept will give shoppers the opportunity to buy online and pick up their purchases in the store or at a drive-through portal.
The idea is certainly a convenient option (and ideal for budget-shoppers who may be tempted to impulse buy once they pick-up their items in the store). However, many retailers reap big profit by those who add to their order once they get into the store: A drive-thru may make it easier for shoppers to pick up their items and leave, but that's not necessarily good news for Sears.
Can Sears upsell to those not willing to leave the driver's seat? Will they even try? Either way, it will certainly be interesting to see how the innovative concept plays out this summer.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Take this recent example from United Airlines. My preferred airline carrier recently sent me an e-mail detailing specials on flights that leave out of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. After flying with the airline for several years, you would think they would finally notice that I only fly out of the New York City area.
"Personalized" e-mails such as this give off the idea that they are doing customers a favor, when it fact, it's only cluttering their inboxes. It can also make them feel frustrated to see no flight specials leaving out of their airport -- why rub it in?
The entire e-mail was of no use to me, and I was left feeling like the company (from which I spend hundreds of dollars on plane tickets each year) has no idea who I am or what I actually want.
That said, when you try to reach your customers with touches of "personalization," be sure to segment them correctly so it doesn't do more harm than good.
L.L. Bean has once again come out on top for serving up great customer service in all retail formats, according to the fourth annual NRF Foundation/American Express Customers’ Choice survey, conducted by BIGresearch.
In the four-year history of the survey, shoppers have increasingly identified Internet-only retailers among those who offered the best customer service, according to the report. And this year was no different with Overstock.com (No. 2), Zappos.com (No. 3) and Amazon.com (No. 4) filling out the top positions.
Jumping five spots this year, J.C. Penney secured the No. 7 spot. Other multichannel and specialty retailers in the Top 10 include Lands’ End (No. 5), Newegg (No. 6), QVC (No. 8), Coldwater Creek (No. 9) and Nordstrom (No. 10).
Friday, January 16, 2009
Williams-Sonoma.com is using video to sell various croissants, sticky buns and scones (who knew Williams-Sonoma sold baked goods?) And now I want to eat them all.
At the bottom of the croissant product page, various videos discuss how a bakery in France makes the items (the chef explains how it's done). The video also describes how they smell when they baking in the oven and offers tips on how to best serve them to guests.
Companies such as QVC and HSN have known for years that video can be incredibly powerful in driving sales, and now (thank goodness) other retailers are starting to embrace video technology through their sites in innovative and engaging ways.
Watch the video here.
That's right, Facebook has put a stop to Burger King's "Whopper Sacrifice" promotion that encouraged members to delete 10 of their friends for a free Whopper coupon. And surprisingly, Facebook's reason for pulling the plug is not because the app is offensive. (Read my original blog post "Trading Friendship for Whoppers" here).
Although the application attracted about 82,000 Facebook users in just one week (and resulted in 233,906 friends removed), the problem is that it violates privacy issues.
The app notified deleted friends, along with their friends via a public news feed, that they were "sacrificed for a Whopper." Usually, no notification is usually sent when a friend is deleted from their friend repertoire.
Even though the application was disabled, the word-of-mouth and media buzz surrounding the "Whopper Sacrifice" is a big win for Burger King. The hamburger chain is once again a hot topic (and a controversial one at that). Facebook members have even created a group to bring back the application, wanting more from Burger King.
And for those who were deleted by someone on Facebook for a free Whopper, Burger King lets you send them a Burger King-sponsored Angry Gram. Talk about expanding the breadth of (debatably) witty branding.
Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst at Forrester Research, discussed this topic during the session, “The State of Retailing Online” at the NRF Big Show held earlier this week in New York City. Some retailers are sitting on rich consumer information, and only some are taking it to the next level, she said.
For example, let's take contemporary apparel company Wet Seal. The retailer's site recently gave consumers the opportunity to create and assemble their own virtual outfits. Soon after launching the feature, the site received over 100,000 outfits.
The company took this to the next level by leveraging the information from their customers to help merchants do their jobs even better. Wet Seal gave shoppers the chance to vote online for their favorite outfits, and surprisingly, the user-generated creations repeatedly came out on top. The retailer then took the outfits that received the most votes and the highest ratings from shoppers and populated its product-detail pages with those cross sells and upsells.
This is just one of the many examples of how retailers are starting to benefit from thinking in new, innovative ways on the Web.
-- Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst at Forrester Research, during the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in New York City, on a recent tax law allowing New York to collect sales tax from online retailers with no physical presence in the state.
Online retailers aren’t happy campers (and I can’t imagine consumers are thrilled either). Some are attempting to fight back, but so far, Amazon and Overstock are already being left in the dust. Read more here.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"I will be manning the cash register, and stocking the shelves as time permits!" Carell wrote in an e-mail to The Boston Globe.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
It also mentions how some retailers are grasping on to these Gen Y staffers (and their knowledge of the Internet) to help save money:
Net Geners’ knowledge of Internet technology can also help companies save money. Consider the case of Best Buy, a big American consumer-electronics retailer. Keen to create a new employee portal, the firm contacted an external consultancy that quoted it a price of several million dollars. Shocked by this, a group of young Best Buy employees put together a small team of developers from their own networks who produced a new portal for about $250,000. Another Net Gener at the company cobbled together a mobile-phone version of Best Buy’s website for fun in seven days in his spare time.
Best Buy is also betting that its Net Geners can come up with new ways of boosting sales using the web and other means. “We’ll weather the storm and be stronger because of the Net Generation,” says Michele Azar, Best Buy’s head of Internet strategy. Estée Lauder, a cosmetics firm, is also encouraging Net Geners to help it innovate. It has launched an initiative called iForce, which brings together young staff to dream up ways of marketing products using emerging technologies.
Click, click, click.
I took this picture recently as I went down the escalator at a three-level Bed, Beth & Beyond location in Manhattan. I initially thought the floor-to-ceiling set-up of travel and pocket-size accessories sent a powerful message to consumers (there's so much to choose from!), but then reality set in: "How in the world am I going to find what I want?"
Looking for a travel-size tube of toothpaste turned into a treasure hunt -- and asking a salesperson for help with something so small was frustrating (it's all too high to reach). Realistically, the design of this wall was just impractical. Easy on-the-go purchases quickly became cumbersome.
Even if the goal is to make a statement in design, it's so important for retailers to make life easier for busy shoppers -- not add more hassle to it.
With scents ranging from hot apple pie, baby powder and ocean, to lavender, cedar wood and green tea, more retailers are influencing their customer's in-store experience by engaging memory and emotion through the sense of smell.
Various retailers, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Reebok and Ashley Furniture, all use scents to impact the shopping experience. Abercrombie & Fitch also pumps its own signature fragrance into the air of its bricks-and-mortar locations.
Connecting your business to a scent is an effective marketing technique that can not only influence shopping behaviors but also impact the power of brand association. While I tested the different scents via a touchscreen on the side of ScentAir's innovative bus-shaped booth, I immediately recognized that the “Coconut Beach” fragrance was used in The Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.
Since the sense of smell is the strongest of all human senses, retailers should hardly overlook scented air technology.
So, what does your brand smell like? And please don't tell me “nothing.”
Many young consumers are jumping on this incentive via a Facebook promotion that allows members to eliminate 10 friends for the prize of a free Whopper. Now, keep in mind, Whoppers usually go for less than $2.00 anyway, which values the worth of an online friend at less than 20 cents a person.
The promotion is creating a quite the stir, and that's exactly what Burger King wants. Last weekend, for example, a few friends and I sat around to watch the Eagles/Giants game (I left as a happy Eagles fan), when someone brought up the Burger King promotion during a commercial break. Some thought the concept was hilarious, while others were insulted that they could potentially be de-friended in exchange for a mere hamburger.
Still, it's a huge win for Burger King as the company once again creates an engaging conversation-starter among the Gen Y crowd (see the "Simpsonize Me" reference in the previous post). It's putting the burger chain back on our radar with a hot, quirky and relevant topic for the Facebook generation to discuss.
I don't think 10 of my Facebook friends will get the boot in exchange for a meal, but perhaps I should reconsider -- I mean, hey, we are in a recession.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Powered by TAAZ.com, a virtual-makeover company, Sephora ran a “Mistletoe Makeover” e-card Web site in conjunction with a promotion on the beauty retailer's Facebook page. Shoppers could upload a photo at MistletoeMakeover.com and apply virtual make-up to the image. Once created, users could then send a Mistletoe e-card to their friends and family, as well as purchase the makeup used.
This concept was made popular by similar sites such as Simpsonize Me (a promotion with Burger King) and even YearbookYourself.com (a silly site that places your photo in various Yearbooks from past decades). Gen Y loves to personalize photos of themselves and/or friends.
I'm hardly surprised that Sephora cashed in on the trend -- they tend to keep on top of what's popular among young consumers. I'm only surprised more retailers haven't followed its lead just yet.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Pizza Hut is targeting Facebook members with an application that allows members to order a pizza directly from its Facebook page (the page has well over 500,000 fans). Meanwhile, Papa John's has embraced a text-by-order campaign on its site and Domino’s takes orders through TiVo.
Although some might argue that ordering a pizza in such a fashion may complicate placing a simple order (why not just pick up the phone?), this approach is indeed a smart one: Companies are catching the attention of consumers in places where they already spend time, whether it's on social-networking sites or in front of the TV.
The chains’ accessibility through these new channels is a fine blend of convenience and innovation, but I wonder if I'll actually remember these options the next time I want pizza from a chain. If a campaign catches me at the right time, though, maybe I will ... at least for curiosity's sake.
Read his insights here.
Although the National Christmas Tree Association told me yesterday afternoon they couldn't comment on whether or not online Christmas tree orders grew in popularity this year, the number of Christmas tree farms and retailers offering the option was certainly on the rise. Lands' End was among the retailers that sold Fraser firs online for the first time this year.
Read more about the trend here.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It may sound ridiculous, but millions of consumers bargain-shopped in new ways this past holiday season to save big money. Although many retailers are reporting weak sales results, some auction sites such as PropertyRoom.com reaped big profit.
PropertyRoom.com maintains the only nationwide registry available to the general public for recovering lost or stolen goods. PropertyRoom.com is an online auction site that works with over 1,300 law-enforcement agencies across the country. The site allows consumers to purchase merchandise that was previously stolen and that the agency was unable to return to the rightful owner. It’s like an eBay for stolen goods.
PropertyRoom.com had over 30 million page views in Dec. 2008 and over a million visitors, which was a 35% increase over Dec. 2007. Along with record traffic, the company saw a 25% revenue increase over last year’s holiday season.
It’s only natural that a business model backed by PropertyRoom.com thrives amid the struggling economic environment, selling high-quality goods at a fraction of the price. According to global Internet information provider comScore, 21% of consumers shopped at online auction sites and 46% of shoppers sought out less-expensive gifts this holiday season (complimented by another 37% who are spending more time researching deals online).
Everyone wins — well, except for the person who lost their goods in the first place.